|Birthname:||Gene Eliza Tierney|
|Born:||November 19, 1920|
|Location:||Brooklyn, New York, United States|
|Deathplace:||Houston, Texas, United States|
|Spouse:||Oleg Cassini (1941-1952; div.)|
W. Howard Lee (1960-1981; desc.)
Gene Tierney (November 19, 1920 – November 6, 1991) was an American film and stage actress. Acclaimed as one of the great beauties of her day, she is best-remembered for her performance in the title role of Laura (1944) and her Academy Award-nominated performance for Best Actress in Leave Her to Heaven (1945). Other notable roles include Martha Strable Van Cleve in Heaven Can Wait (1943), Isabel Bradley Maturin in The Razor's Edge (1946), Lucy Muir in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Ann Sutton in Whirlpool (1949), Maggie Carleton McNulty in The Mating Season (1951) and Anne Scott in The Left Hand of God (1955).
Tierney was born Gene Eliza Tierney in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Howard Sherwood Tierney and Belle Lavina Taylor. She had an elder brother, Howard Sherwood “Butch” Tierney, Jr., and a younger sister, Patricia “Pat” Tierney. Her father was a prosperous insurance broker of Irish descent, her mother a former gym teacher.
Tierney attended St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Unquowa School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Her first poem, entitled “Night,” was published in the school magazine, and writing verse became an occasional pastime during the rest of her life. She then spent two years in Europe and attended the Brillantmont finishing school in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she learned to speak fluent French.
Tierney returned to the U.S. in 1938 and attended Miss Porter’s School. On a trip to the West Coast, she visited Warner Bros. studios. The director Anatole Litvak, who was so taken by the seventeen-year-old’s beauty, told her that she should become an actress. Warner Bros. wanted to sign her to a contract, but her parents advised against it because of the low salary.
Tierney’s coming-out party as a debutante occurred on September 24, 1938, when she was 17 years old. She was bored with society life and decided to pursue a career in acting. Her father felt “If Gene is to be an actress, it should be in the legitimate theatre.” Tierney studied acting at a small Greenwich Village acting studio in New York.
In Tierney’s first part on Broadway, she carried a bucket of water across the stage in What a Life! (1938). A Variety magazine critic declared, "Miss Tierney is certainly the most beautiful water carrier I’ve ever seen!" At the same time, she was an understudy for The Primrose Path (1938). The next year, she appeared in the role as Molly O' Day in the Broadway production Mrs. O' Brien Entertains (1939). The New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson wrote, "As an Irish maiden fresh from the old country, Gene Tierney in her first stage performance is very pretty and refreshingly modest." That same year, Tierney appeared as Peggy Carr in Ring Two (1939) to favorable reviews. Theater critic Richard Watts, Jr. of the New York Herald Tribune wrote, "I see no reason why Miss Tierney should not have an interesting theatrical career, that is if cinema does not kidnap her away."
Tierney’s father set up a corporation, Belle-Tier, to fund and promote her acting career (he went on to steal all of her money). Columbia Pictures signed her to a six-month contract in 1939. She also met Howard Hughes, who tried unsuccessfully to seduce her, but she was from a well-to-do family and was not impressed by Hughes wealth. However, he became a lifelong friend. A cameraman advised Tierney to lose a little weight, saying “a thinner face is more seductive.” Tierney then wrote to Harper’s Bazaar for a slimming diet, which she followed for the next 25 years. Tierney's is offered the lead role in National Velvet but production is delayed. National Velvet would later be produced at MGM in 1944.
Columbia Pictures failed to find Tierney a project; so, she returned to Broadway and starred as Patricia Stanley to critical and commercial success in The Male Animal (1940). In The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson wrote, "Tierney blazes with animation in the best performance she has yet given". She was the toast of Broadway before her 20th birthday.
One night before the curtain went up on The Male Animal the rumor in the theatre was Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox had flown in from the coast and was in the audience. During the performance he told an assistant to make a note of Tierney's name.
Later that night Zanack dropped by the Stork Club where his eyes fell on a young lady on the dance floor. He told his assistant "Forget the girl from the Play. See if you can sign that one". Tierney was also the girl on the dance floor. Zanack was not easily convinced that the girl in the Play and the one on the dance floor were one and the same. Tierney was quoted after the fact . " I always had several different "looks" a quality that proved useful in my career"  
Hollywood called once again, Tierney signed with 20th Century-Fox. Her motion picture debut was in a co-starring role as Elenore Stone in Fritz Lang's western The Return of Frank James (1940), opposite Henry Fonda. A small role as Barbara Hall followed in Hudson's Bay (1941) with Paul Muni.
Also, in 1941, Tierney co-starred as Ellie Mae Lester in John Ford's comedy Tobacco Road, along with the title role in Belle Starr, Zia in Sundown and Victoria Charteris a.k.a. Poppy Smith in The Shanghai Gesture. The following year, she played Eve in , along with the dual role as Susan Miller a.k.a. Linda Worthington in Rouben Mamoulian's screwball comedy film Rings on Her Fingers, Kay Saunders in Thunder Birds and Miss Young in China Girl.
Top billing in Ernst Lubitsch's classic 1943 comedy Heaven Can Wait as Martha Strable Van Cleve signaled an upward turn in Tierney's career, as her popularity increased. In 1944, she starred in what became her most famous role - the intended murder victim, Laura Hunt, in Otto Preminger's mystery film Laura, opposite Dana Andrews. After playing Tina Tomasino in A Bell for Adano (1945), she played the jealous, narcissistic femme fatale Ellen Berent Harland, opposite Cornel Wilde, in the film version of the best-selling book Leave Her to Heaven, a performance that won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (1945). Leave Her To Heaven was 20th Century-Fox's most successful film of the 1940s.
In 1946, Tierney starred as Miranda Wells in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's debut film as a director in Dragonwyck. That same year, she starred in another critically-praised performance as Isabel Bradley, opposite Tyrone Power, in The Razor's Edge, an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel. She followed that with her role as Lucy Muir in Mankiewicz's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), which many critics have noted to be her greatest performance (besides Laura) for which she did not receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. The following year, Tierney co-starred once again with Power, this time as Sara Farley in the successful screwball comedy film That Wonderful Urge (1948). As the decade came to a close, Tierney reunited with Laura director Preminger to star as Ann Sutton in the classic film noir Whirlpool, co-starring Richard Conte and José Ferrer (1949).
In 1951, Tierney was loaned out to Paramount Pictures and gave a memorable comic turn as Maggie Carleton in Mitchell Leisen's classic screwball comedy film The Mating Season with John Lund, Thelma Ritter and Miriam Hopkins. This was also the year Tierney gave a tender performance as Midge Sheridan in the Warner Bros. film Close to my Heart (1951) with Ray Milland. The film is about a couple trying to adopt. Tierney felt this was her best role in a half-dozen years, as it touched the chords of her own experience. The film addressed the issue of "nature versus nurture" and opened an early conversation about the adoption process. Later in her career, she would be reunited with Milland in Daughter of the Mind (1969), which has a cult following.
After appearing opposite Rory Calhoun as Teresa in Way of The Gaucho (1952), her contract at 20th Century-Fox expired. That same year, she starred as Dorothy Bradford in Plymouth Adventure, opposite Spencer Tracy at MGM, during which she had a brief romance with Tracy. Tierney then played Marya Lamarkina, opposite Clark Gable, in Never Let Me Go (1953), which was filmed in England. She found Gable patient and considerate, but lonely and vulnerable, as he was still mourning the death of Carole Lombard. She remained in Europe to play Kay Barlow in United Artists' Personal Affair (1953), which was released that same year. While Tierney was in Europe, she began a romance with Prince Aly Khan, but their marriage plans met with fierce opposition from his father, Aga Khan III.  Early in 1953, Tierney returned to the U.S. to co-star in a film noir film as Iris Denver in Black Widow (1954) with Ginger Rogers and Van Heflin.
During 1953, Tierney's mental health problems were becoming harder for her to hide; she dropped out of Mogambo and was replaced by Grace Kelly. While playing Anne Scott in The Left Hand of God (1955), opposite Humphrey Bogart, Tierney’s long string of personal troubles finally took its toll. She said that “Bogey could tell that I was mentally unstable.” During the production, he fed Tierney her lines and encouraged her to seek help. Worried about her mental health, she consulted a psychiatrist, and was admitted to Harkness Pavilion in New York. Later, she went to the The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. After some 27 shock treatments, Tierney attempted to flee, but was caught and re-institutionalized. She became an outspoken opponent of shock treatment therapy, claiming that it had destroyed significant portions of her memory.
In 1957, Tierney was seen by a neighbor as she was about to jump from a ledge. The police were called, and she was admitted to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas on December 25. She was released from Menninger the following year, after a treatment that included - in its final stages - working as a sales girl in a large department store (where she was recognized by a customer, resulting in sensational newspaper headlines).
Later that year, 20th Century-Fox offered her a lead role in Holiday for Lovers (1957), but the stress proved too great. Days into production, she was forced to drop out of the film and was readmitted to Menninger.
Tierney made a screen comeback in Advise and Consent (1962), co-starring with Franchot Tone. A year later, she played Albertine Prine in Toys in the Attic. She received overall critical praise for her performances. Tierney's career turn as a solid character actress seemed to be on track. She played Jane Barton in The Pleasure Seekers (1964), then again retired.
Tierney married twice, first to costume and fashion designer Oleg Cassini on June 1, 1941. She and Cassini had two daughters, Antoinette Daria Cassini (born October 15, 1943) and Christina "Tina" Cassini (born November 19, 1948).
In June 1943, while pregnant with her first daughter (Daria), Tierney contracted rubella during her only appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. Daria was born prematurely in Washington, D.C., weighing only three pounds, two ounces (1.42kg) and requiring a total blood transfusion. Because of Tierney's illness, Daria was also deaf, partially blind with cataracts and had severe mental retardation. Tierney's grief over the tragedy led to many years of depression and may have begun her bipolar disorder. Some time after the tragedy surrounding her daughter Daria's birth, Tierney learned from a fan who approached her for an autograph at a tennis party that the woman (who was then a member of the women's branch of the Marine Corps) had sneaked out of quarantine while sick with rubella to meet Tierney at her only Hollywood Canteen appearance. In her autobiography, Tierney related that after the woman had recounted her story, she just stared at her silently, then turned and walked away. She wrote, "After that I didn't care whether ever again I was anyone's favorite actress." Biographers have theorized that Agatha Christie used this real life tragedy as the basis of her plot for The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.   The incident, as well as the circumstances under which the information was imparted to the actress, is repeated almost verbatim in the story. Tierney's tragedy had been well-publicized for years previously. During this time, Howard Hughes, an old friend, saw to it that Daria received the best medical care available, paying for all of her medical expenses. Tierney never forgot Hughes' acts of kindness.
Tierney separated from Cassini, challenged by the marital stress of Daria's condition, but they later reconciled and had a second daughter, Tina. During her separation, Tierney had a romance, during the filming of Dragonwyck, she met a young John F. Kennedy, who was visiting the set. They began a romance that ended the following year, when Kennedy told her he could never marry her because of his political ambitions.  Tierney then reconciled with Cassini, but they divorced on February 28, 1952. In 1960, Tierney sent Kennedy a note of congratulations on his election victory; although, she later admitted that she voted for Richard Nixon, saying, "I thought that he would make a better president."
In 1958, Tierney met Texas oil baron W. Howard Lee, who was married to Hedy Lamarr from 1953 to 1960. Tierney and Lee married in Aspen, Colorado on July 11, 1960, and lived in Houston, Texas. She loved life in Texas with Lee and became an expert contract bridge player. In 1962, 20th Century Fox announced Tierney would play the lead role in Return to Peyton Place, but she became pregnant and dropped out of the project. She later miscarried.
Tierney's autobiography, Self-Portrait, in which she candidly discussed her life, career and mental illness, was published in 1979.
On February 17, 1981, Tierney was widowed when Lee died after a long illness. Tierney died in 1991, shortly before her 71st birthday, of emphysema in Houston, Texas. She had started smoking after a screening of her first movie to lower her voice because "I sound like an angry Minnie Mouse." She became a heavy smoker, which may have contributed to her death. She is interred next to Lee in the Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, Texas.
|Year||Title||Role||Director||Other cast members||Filmed in|
|1940||The Return of Frank James||Eleanor Stone||Fritz Lang||Henry Fonda||Technicolor|
|1940||Hudson's Bay||Barbra Hall||Irving Pichel||Paul Muni|
|1941||Tobacco Road||Ellie Mae Lester||John Ford||Charles Grapewin|
|1941||Belle Starr||Belle Starr||Irving Cummings||Randolph Scott|
|1941||Sundown||Zia||Henry Hathaway||Bruce Cabot|
|1942||The Shanghai Gesture||Victoria Charteris aka|
|Josef von Sternberg||Walter Huston|
|1942||Eve||John Cromwell||Tyrone Power||Sepia tone|
|1942||Rings on Her Fingers||Susan Miller aka|
|Rouben Mamoulian||Henry Fonda|
|1942||Thunder Birds||Kay Saunders||William A. Wellman||Preston Foster|
|1942||China Girl||Miss Young||Henry Hathaway||George Montgomery|
|1943||Heaven Can Wait||Martha Strabel Van Cleve||Ernst Lubitsch||Don Ameche||Technicolor|
|1944||Laura||Laura Hunt||Otto Preminger||Dana Andrews|
|1945||A Bell for Adano||Tina Tomasino||Henry King||John Hodiak|
|1945||Leave Her to Heaven||Ellen Brent Harland||John M. Stahl||Cornel Wilde|
|1946||Dragonwyck||Miranda Wells Van Ryn||Joseph L. Mankiewicz||Walter Huston|
|1946||The Razor's Edge||Isabel Bradley Maturin||Edmund Goulding||Tyrone Power|
|1947||The Ghost and Mrs. Muir||Lucy Muir||Joseph L. Mankiewicz||Rex Harrison|
|1948||The Iron Curtain||Anne Gouzenko||William A. Wellman||Dana Andrews|
|1948||That Wonderful Urge||Sara Farley||Robert B. Sinclair||Tyrone Power|
|1949||Whirlpool||Ann Sutton||Otto Preminger||Richard Conte|
|1950||Night and the City||Mary Bristol||Jules Dassin||Richard Widmark|
|1950||Where the Sidewalk Ends||Morgan Taylor (Paine)||Otto Preminger||Dana Andrews|
|1951||The Mating Season||Maggie Carleton McNulty||Mitchell Leisen||John Lund|
|1951||On the Riviera||Lili Duran||Walter Lang||Danny Kaye||Technicolor|
|1951||The Secret of Convict Lake||Marcia Stoddard||Michael Gordon||Glenn Ford|
|1951||Close to My Heart||Midge Seridan||William Keighley||Ray Milland|
|1952||Way of a Gaucho||Teresa||Jacques Tourneur||Rory Calhoun||Technicolor|
|1952||Plymouth Adventure||Dorothy Bradford||Clarence Brown||Spencer Tracy|
|1953||Never Let Me Go||Marya Lamarkina||Delmer Daves||Clark Gable|
|1953||Personal Affair||Kay Barlow||Anthony Pelissier||Leo Genn|
|1954||Black Widow||Iris Denver||Nunnally Johnson||Ginger Rogers||CinemaScope|
|1954||The Egyptian||Baketamon||Michael Curtiz||Jean Simmons|
|1955||The Left Hand of God||Anne Scott||Edward Dmytryk||Humphrey Bogart||CinemaScope|
|1962||Advise and Consent||Dolly Harrison||Otto Preminger||Henry Fonda|
|1963||Toys in the Attic||Albertine Prine||George Roy Hill||Dean Martin|
|1963||Cuatro noches de la luna llena, Las|
aka Four Nights of the Full Moon
|Sobey Martin||Dan Dailey|
|1964||The Pleasure Seekers||Jane Barton||Jean Negulesco||Ann-Margret||CinemaScope|
|1938||What A Life!||Original Play, Comedy||Walk on, Water carrier||George Abbott|
|1938||The Primrose Path||Original Play, Drama/Comedy||Understudy||George Abbott|
|1939||Mrs O' Brian Entertains||Original Play, Comedy||Molly O' Day||George Abbott|
|1939||Ring Two||Original Play, Comedy||Peggy Carr||George Abbott|
|1940||The Male Animal||Original Play, Comedy||Patricia Stanley||Herman Shumlin|
|Year||Title||Role||Director||Other cast members||Filmed in|
|1947||Sir Charles Mendl Show||Herself||Host|
Sir Charles Mendl
|1953||Toast of the Town|
(The Ed Sullivan Show - Episode #6.33)
|Herself||Host: Ed Sullivan|
|1954||The 26th Annual Academy Awards||Herself |
Presenter: Costume Design Awards
|Host: Donald O'Conner, Fredric March|
|1957||What's My Line?|
Episode: August 25,
|Host: John Charles Daly|
|1960||General Electric Theater|
Episode:Journey to a Wedding
|Ellen Galloway||Host: Ronald Reagan|
Episode: Conspiracy of Silence
|Faye Simpson||Jesse Hibbs||Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.||Color|
|1969||Daughter of the Mind|
(Made for TV movie)
|Lenore Constable||Walter Gruman||Ray Milland||Color|
|1979||The Merv Griffin Show ||Herself||Dick Carson||Host: Merv Griffin||Color|
|1980||The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson||Herself||Host: Johnny Carson||Color|
|1980||The Mike Douglas Show||Herself||Host: Mike Douglas||Color|
|1980||Dinah! ||Herself||Host: Dinah Shore||Color|
|1980||The Tomorrow Show||Herself||Host: Tom Snyder||Color|
|Harriet Toppington||Alan J.Levi||Lindsay Wagner||Color|